Patina – Chapter 15

Alright, he was getting old. 

He aimed the rifle’s tip at the space between two large trees. There, half-hidden by the foliage and branches, something large and looming approached. It was dark, seeping some sort of liquid that kissed the ground in large dollops of tar-like drops.

Haaaaalp!” It shouted, its voice vibrating with a thousand of pained echoes. 

Two black eyes glistened in the remaining light. 

He shot. 

The bang recoiled through his arm and his shoulder, slapping like a jackhammer against his ear. 

The holy bullet whizzed through air – and missed. 

It still hit some place nearby and it exploded in a shower of blessed mist. The Eerie still yowled in pain and rushed forward, at last letting go of any cover. 

The Hunter’s lips thinned into a line, and not just because he was trying to aim better and not waste another shot. 

The once-body of one of the iron-prospectors still hung from the torso of the beast, upside down. Its slack jaw could only growl and repeat that last cry – haalp, haalp, haaalp – as if it had been of any help when he faced the fury of the forest. He still dragged some of his clothes with him, shredded to dirty ribbons. Lonely, a chisel slumped from his half-digested belt where his flesh turned crazy and diverged in a riverbed of limbs. Tiny fanged mouths bit into its own charred and blackened skin, ripping off pieces they digested and that writhed in its underbelly, forming yet another set of tiny fingers and more mouths that repeated the process ad nauseam. 

In its beady, black eyes shone the frenzied light of a curse stretched to a thousand days of agony. 

The Hunter shivered at the thought of what that might have entailed for the poor once-man. The Queen of Thorns was not one for light punishments, but… Spirits. 

This time he aimed right between his eyes.

A strange kind of awareness, likely the one actually moving its limbs and not the spent life of the once-man lit in its gaze.

It shifted right just as he shot.

The bullet hit.

Not his head.

It could have at least ended the misery of the poor man, though the Eerie would likely live on. 

Still, it sparked a burst of white smoke on its side. The Eerie roared a shrill Haaaaaalp that made the treetops shake and it fell on its side, skittering all over with its limbs and mouths, rising small clouds of dust. 

Little by little, the holy water bit into its flesh and then its bones. His side collapsed like it was being sucked in from within, exposing rust bones with sharp protrusions.

That was the right time.

He let go of the rifle and jumped, knife at the ready. 

The Eerie was ready as well.

It managed to shake off the pain for just one moment, but enough to turn on itself, and slap at him using one of the man’s arms. 

The impact sent him rolling until he stopped against a tree. He stood up on one knee. The Eerie turned at him and rushed forward, pushing itself on its wriggling limbs like a nightmare caterpillar. He spat dust and blood and rolled left as the thing roared and crashed onto the tree, making it shake and a rain of grey needles and crimson sap fall upon them. The Hunter jumped atop the thing. Before it could shake him off he grasped the man’s neck.

Haaaaalp!” He shouted again. 

And he plunged it into his throat, cutting off through thick skin and cursed muscles. The blade eagerly slashed, helped by the industrial nature of its rubber handle. A reminder of the world of men, forever chased off by the Fae war, but still able to bite back. 

The man’s last cry drowned in its own black blood and the light in those tormented eyes died. 

The Eerie it had bloated into, though, wasn’t nearly as easily dispatched. It arched its back and its skin bristled and opened in a thousand places, forming more of those hungry mouths, their teeth grabbing his knees and his arms. 

“Hnnh,” he groaned through gritted teeth.

He slashed at the skin biting into his own, carving a path towards the gaping hole into its side that blasted noxious fumes onto the night. The thing shivered in pain, though it couldn’t shriek anymore and arched its back once more.

He rolled onto the ground. The Eerie reared, showing its underbelly writhing with a thousand tiny limbs. 

It fell upon him. 

And he was right there to wait for it. The knife drank into its form till the handle and another powerful shook of pain echoed through its body. Black blood fell from the wound onto his unprotected stomach. It burned, but this would burn even more. 

Quick, he raised his other hand, the one that he had used against the smaller critters. He traced a sign like an interwoven snake onto the wet hide of the Eerie and then he slapped his palm right against the cursed flesh. 

There was a flash of silver light. 

The Eerie shook and fell back. He rolled to the left, out of reach, as the thing curled upon itself, as if it was trying to contain something growing inside it. From its side came more white smoke, bellowed out of its innards, but it couldn’t contain all of it.

It arched backwards. His skin split once more, but instead of mouths this time more smoke came out, hissing in brief and painful spurts. 

The creature stumbled left, right and finally fell on its side.

The torso wriggled a few times, smearing the ground with the black blood from the man’s throat.

A few more wisps of smoke left the dying body.

And then all was silent.

Panting, the Hunter stood up. He used the ends of his coat, still tied to his torso, to wash off most of the black blood that covered his torso. He needed to find a river. 

Trembling, he walked back to his sled, pulling up the rifle on his back.

One last glance at the Eerie. It was still dead. And slowly withering from the inside, like a ballon that can be held afloat by hot air no more. The will and the curse that held it together was slowly coming undone. 

And still, he couldn’t reach out to him. To the lonely prospector that had incurred such wrath. 

What did he even do? Some blasphemy, perhaps. He might have trespassed a circle of roots, or bit with his knife into a tree, or – spirits forbid – maybe cut some of the Wicked Fae’s crimson flowers. 

Whatever it might be, he could do nothing.

He doubted even someone like Elissa could. 

Performing one Sere Rite would be draining enough. And he could only afford to unmake one curse at a time. 

Still, his face was grim and his heart more pained than his wounded legs and he mounted on the sled and revved the engine to a quiet hum, aiming for the nearest river. 

“Goodnight, brother,” he muttered. And disappeared into the now-quiet night. 

Pic by San

Author’s Note: I felt like this one fighting scene was a little easier to write than the last. I liked to show off an Eerie at last. I hope they do not disappoint as monsters. And once again thanks for reading!

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